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David Gordon

David Gordon

David Gordon (born 1948) is an American libertarian philosopher and intellectual historian influenced by Rothbardian views of economics. Peter J. Boettke, in his Reason Foundation "Reason Papers," Issue No. 19, Fall 1994, describes Gordon as "a philosopher and intellectual historian who is deeply influenced by the Rothbardian strand of economics." He is a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and editor of The Mises Review.

Articles by David Gordon

Are There Any Limits to Natural Rights?

6 days ago

I’d like to discuss today an argument that is popular among some contemporary political philosophers. If this argument is correct, it undermines the sort of natural rights found in Murray Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty. I hope that I am not spoiling the surprise by telling you immediately that I think the argument is wrong. …

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George Will’s Tepid Defense of Freedom

12 days ago

The Conservative Sensibilityby George F. WillHachette Books, 2019xxxix + 600 pp. The well-known Washington columnist George Will was long ago a libertarian, but he soon changed his mind, adopting instead a statist variety of conservatism. In The Conservative Sensibility, he returns to his libertarian roots, but the return is incomplete, and he ends up with …

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The Problem with “You Own What You Make”

13 days ago

I’d like to discuss what is sometimes claimed to be a major problem for theories of rights like that of Murray Rothbard, which start from the principle of self-ownership and incorporate a Lockean principle of initial appropriation of resources. In brief, you own yourself; you “mix your labor” with unowned land or resources, and in …

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Burt Blumert’s Ninety-Second Birthday

15 days ago

Today would have been the ninety-second birthday of Burt Blumert, one of the greatest personalities of the modern libertarian movement. Burt was the indispensable man behind the scenes and was a key figure in the Mises Institute, the Center for Libertarian Studies, and LewRockwell.com. He was one of Murray Rothbard’s closest friends; and when you …

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William Graham Sumner Was No “Social Darwinist”

20 days ago

One of the first free market books I read, back in the early 1960s, was William Graham Sumner’s What Social Classes Owe Each Other. The book originally appeared in 1883. It is often smeared for its “social Darwinism.” According to this interpretation, Sumner thinks that people must struggle with each other in order to live. …

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What Rights Do Future Generations Have?

27 days ago

Sometimes people claim the free market is unfair to future generations. Mises says again and again that capitalism is a system of “mass production for the masses” directed by the “dollar-votes” of consumers, and the consumers he is talking about are people who now exist. These people will act to secure their interests, but what …

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What Rights Do Future Generations Have?

27 days ago

Sometimes people claim the free market is unfair to future generations. Mises says again and again that capitalism is a system of “mass production for the masses” directed by the “dollar-votes” of consumers, and the consumers he is talking about are people who now exist. These people will act to secure their interests, but what …

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Jeff Riggenbach, RIP

January 25, 2021

Jeff Riggenbach, one of the pioneer libertarians from the 1970s, died today at the age of seventy-four. The dominant theme of his work was opposition to war, and he was a great champion of Randolph Bourne, who famously said that “war is the health of the state.”   He was drawn to the Mises Institute through …

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Climate Change: Fred Singer’s Classic Critique

January 23, 2021

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate. Third edition.by S. Fred Singer with David R. Legates and Anthony R. LupoIndependent Institute, 2020234 pages. During the Senate confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett last October, Kamala Harris criticized Barrett for her refusal to state her opinion about “climate change” on the ground that the issue …

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Only Ideological Change Can Make the World a More Peaceful Place

January 22, 2021

Those of us who support a noninterventionist foreign policy find in Murray Rothbard’s work an inexhaustible source of facts and arguments. Mises, by contrast, usually doesn’t comment on foreign policy issues. Sometimes he did, but you won’t find in his published writings his views on the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict. I’d like …

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A Welcome Attack on Churchill and Wilson

January 19, 2021

Bland Fanatics: Liberals, Race, and Empireby Pankaj MishraFarrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020218 pages Pankaj Mishra dislikes the free market, and he blames it for the imperial conquests of the nineteenth century and after. But much of his book can be read as an extended commentary on some remarks by the great champion of the free market Ludwig …

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A World without Political Leaders?

January 18, 2021

Manent insists that if political leaders don’t lead society, we will have a society that isn’t led by political leaders. So what? Original Article: “A World without Political Leaders?​​” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.  

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What Does “Freedom” Mean? There Are Many Different Answers.

January 17, 2021

“These days most people tend to equate freedom with the possession of inalienable individual rights, rights that demarcate a private sphere no government may infringe on. But has this always been the case?” Original Article: “What Does “Freedom” Mean? There Are Many Different Answers.” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated …

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A Case for One Billion Americans?

January 16, 2021

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Biggerby Matthew YglesiasPortfolio Penguin, 2020xx + 267 pages Matthew Yglesias, a cofounder of Vox and frequent writer for it, has some useful insights in this book. But he perfectly exemplifies a type of mind that is capable of doing great damage. I hesitate to say this, as he …

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A World without Political Leaders?

January 15, 2021

The French political philosopher Pierre Manent has a view of politics that my readers are likely to reject, and rightly so. He has written a great deal about the French classical liberals, especially Tocqueville, but his heart lies more in the study of the classics. In his books, such as Metamorphoses of the City, he …

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What Does “Freedom” Mean? There Are Many Different Answers.

January 13, 2021

Freedom: An Unruly Historyby Annelien de DijnHarvard University Press, 2020426 pages1 Those of us who follow Mises and Rothbard think that freedom means “freedom from.” In Rothbard’s view, rights are negative. People aren’t at liberty to use force or threats of force against you or your property; but there are no positive enforceable rights to …

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The Cult of Smart

January 11, 2021

The government spends vast amounts of money on educational programs that aim to give “equal opportunity” to those deemed disadvantaged, but there is little or no evidence that these programs achieve anything. Original Article: “The Cult of Smart” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Michael Stack.  

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Double Standards, Reparations, and War Crimes

January 9, 2021

The Nuremberg prosecutors wanted to indict the Nazis on trial for crimes, but at the same time they wanted to preserve the dogma that the modern European nation-state is the culmination of moral progress. This created a conundrum. Original Article: “Double Standards, Reparations, and War Crimes” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher …

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Freedom vs. the Collective

January 8, 2021

In a famous lecture delivered in August 1819, the great classical liberal Benjamin Constant contrasts the ancient and modern conceptions of liberty. By the “ancient conception,” Constant means the liberty of the citizens of a state to rule themselves, as opposed to rule by despots, whether foreign or domestic. He has primarily in mind the …

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Hayek, Friedman, Buchanan: The Villains of “Neoliberalism”

January 7, 2021

In the Ruins of Neoliberalism: The Rise of Antidemocratic Politics in the Westby Wendy BrownColumbia University Press, 2019viii + 248 pages Wendy Brown, a well-known political theorist who teaches at UC Berkeley, does not like Friedrich Hayek very much. She in part blames him and others as well, including Milton Friedman and James Buchanan, for …

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Double Standards, Reparations, and War Crimes

January 6, 2021

On the Judgment of Historyby Joan Wallach Scott Columbia University Press, 2020xxiii + 117 pages Joan Wallach Scott, a historian who is a professor emerita at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, has come up with a most valuable insight. She is decidedly not “one of us,” but her insight makes her sound as if …

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The Cult of Smart

January 2, 2021

The Cult of Smart: How Our Broken Education System Perpetuates Social Injusticeby Fredrik deBoerAll Points Books, 2020276 pages What is the Cult of Smart? According to Fredrik deBoer, who has been for much of his adult life an educator, It is difficult to overstate how thoroughly the collegiate arms race dominates the life of ambitious …

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The Disaster of Bretton Woods vs. a Real Gold Standard

January 2, 2021

The Monetary Conservative: Jacques Rueff and Twentieth-Century Free Market Thoughtby Christopher S. ChivvisNorthern Illinois University Press, 2010xiv + 234 pages
The French economist Jacques Rueff was the foremost opponent in the twentieth century of the gold exchange standard, and his defense of the classical gold standard deserves close study. In this outstanding intellectual biography of Rueff, Christopher Chivvis, a political scientist working for the RAND Corporation, shows that belief in monetary stability dominated Rueff’s long and distinguished career.
Rueff’s commitment to the free market stemmed from his days as a student at L’École polytechnique, “a venerable training ground for future servants of the French state”

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Mises and Philosophical Minimalism

January 1, 2021

Mises often answers attacks on praxeology with a “minimalist” strategy. By this I mean that he denies that praxeology rests on controversial philosophical positions. By avoiding philosophical disputes, he tries to stay out of trouble he doesn’t need. He says, in effect, “We have an a priori grasp of the concept of action, and we …

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The Mises Review: Book Reviews from 2020

December 30, 2020

The Mises Review was a quarterly review of the literature in economics, politics, philosophy, and law which was edited by David Gordon.  As we prepare for 2021, here is a collection of Dr. Gordon’s book reviews from the past year. Each article features his piercing Rothbardian insight into some of the most important new books of …

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The Disaster of Bretton Woods vs. a Real Gold Standard

December 30, 2020

The Monetary Conservative: Jacques Rueff and Twentieth-Century Free Market Thoughtby Christopher S. ChivvisNorthern Illinois University Press, 2010xiv + 234 pages The French economist Jacques Rueff was the foremost opponent in the twentieth century of the gold exchange standard, and his defense of the classical gold standard deserves close study. In this outstanding intellectual biography of …

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What Should the West Rally behind? Not the State.

December 29, 2020

Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the Westby R.R. RenoRegnery Gateway, 2019xviii + 182 pages If you had to pick the thinker most responsible for our current social and political ills, who would it be? R.R. “Rusty” Reno has an answer that will surprise you. He is a theologian who …

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Mises’s Vision for Value-Free Economics

December 18, 2020

Near the beginning of Human Action, Mises makes a remarkable statement: “it is in this subjectivism that the objectivity of our science [economics] lies” (p. 21). What does he mean by this? How can a science be objective by being subjective? ye-join-button_250x55.png Mises’s answer is that economics takes the ultimate preferences of people as given, …

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Marxists Dominate the Field of Literary Criticism. That’s a Problem.

December 18, 2020

Matt Spivey continues the pioneering work of Paul Cantor and Stephen Cox in bringing sound economics to the analysis of literature. Original Article: “Marxists Dominate the Field of Literary Criticism. That’s a Problem.​​” This Audio Mises Wire is generously sponsored by Christopher Condon. Narrated by Millian Quinteros.  

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